Finance ministry likely to admit rewriting land sale papers

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Finance Ministry is expected to admit that it has secretly rewritten documents related to a controversial discount sale of state land to private school operator Moritomo Gakuen, government sources said Saturday.

The admission that public documents have been tampered with is likely to deal a heavy blow to the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, political watchers said.

Opposition parties look certain to grill Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, over the issue in the Diet this week, they said.

Moritomo Gakuen is one of the school operators at the center of favoritism allegations against Abe.

The ministry has confirmed that such wording as the “special nature” of the land deal has been removed from its original documents before copies were disclosed to lawmakers, according to the sources.

It is expected to report the findings from its internal probes to the ruling and opposition parties on Monday.

The ministry is considering punishing officials at its head office, as well as its Kinki Local Finance Bureau, which drew up the documents in question, the sources said.

Speaking to reporters in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima Prefecture, Abe said Saturday that the ministry should make utmost efforts to clarify whether the documents have been altered.

Abe said he wants Aso and ministry officials to do all they can to report the results of their investigation early this week.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the opposition Kibo no To (Party of Hope), said the issue is no longer a problem that only involves the ministry, but is a sign of the Abe administration’s cover-up habits.

Tamaki also said Aso cannot escape his responsibility anymore, adding that the scandal has entered a stage where the prime minister’s responsibility is questioned.

In relation to the unfolding document-tampering scandal, National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was director general of the ministry’s Financial Bureau when the documents were submitted to the Diet, stepped down from the top agency post on Friday to take responsibility for causing confusion in the Diet.

Morimoto Gakuen, once linked to Abe’s wife, Akie, purchased the state-owned land plot in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, at a deep discount in order to build an elementary school. But it gave up the school plan in March last year after coming under fire for the land deal.Speech

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